When Andrew was a teenager he hadn't been able to picture a future for himself. He assumed he'd either be dead or in prison by this time in his life. He couldn't have imagined that he'd ever have a life like this. He had gone to university, he had a safe place to live, he had a steady job, he had friends, and no one had touched him without his consent since he was thirteen. Sure, technically he hadn't graduated university, thanks to Aaron getting him kicked out. And he didn't own his own house, he lived with his cousin Nicky and Nicky's boyfriend, Erik. And his job was helping computer illiterate people with problems of their own making as a member of the Nerd Herd at the local BuyMore. And he didn't have friends so much as he had friend, singular, and several acquaintances that he didn't hate. And although he'd come to terms with his sexuality and dated a little, he'd never found anyone who could hold his interest. But, still. His life may have not been the most glamorous or exciting, but it was his. He'd worked hard to get this far and he was content. He didn't appreciate Nicky's attempts at trying to improve him.
Which was why he was hiding in his bedroom to escape the party that Nicky had thrown for his twenty seventh birthday.
"Andrew," said Nicky in exasperation, after knocking on his door. "This is your party."
"All the guests are your friends," said Andrew.
"I invited all of your friends that I know!" argued Nicky. "Renee's here. Also, I have invited several single, interested guys just for you."
"It never goes well when you try to set me up," said Andrew.
"Are you just going to sit in your room and sulk all night?"
Andrew considered. "Probably," he admitted.
"Would you pl… at least have some birthday cake?"
Andrew didn't want to leave his room, but Nicky was trying so hard and had curbed himself from saying 'please' for Andrew's sake, so he gave in and left his room. The first person he ran into was Erik.
"Andrew, buddy!" he cried happily. "It's great to see you!" Andrew had tried to hate Erik (he hadn't expected any difficulty as he hated most people) but the guy was practically a golden retriever: friendly, outgoing, dumb, and loyal. Despite Andrew's best efforts he hadn't given up on him. He continued to treat him like a friend, instead of his boyfriend's freeloading family member.
Renee was the next to approach him. She handed him a bottle of beer. "I've scoped out the guys that Nicky's trying to set you up with. Steer clear. One of them is a raw vegan."
Andrew just sighed and took a swig of his beer.
"Another one is named Chad," said Renee. "I asked if he was from Burbank and he said that he was a citizen of the world. Where does Nicky find these people?"
"We're in Southern California. They're everywhere."
She grinned. "At least the cake is good."
Andrew resigned himself to eating cake and making small talk for a couple hours, until everyone finally started clearing out.
"I'll come by tomorrow for a ride to work," said Renee as she was leaving.
"Well," said Nicky nervously once they were alone. "I hope you had a happy birthday."
"You didn't have to do this for me," Andrew said.
"I know," said Nicky, biting his lip. "I just worry. I want you to be happy."
"I'm doing well, Nicky," Andrew assured him.
"I know," replied Nicky. "I just wish you had someone. I don't want you to be lonely."
"Come on, babe," said Erik. "Andrew will find the right person for him. Someone will be able to see the great guy that we know he is, but you can't force it."
"But how will it happen if he doesn't put in any effort?" asked Nicky.
Andrew left them to their minor argument and slipped back into his room. As he started changing for bed, his computer pinged. He went to investigate and was surprised to see a message from his twin brother Aaron.
He hadn't seen or heard from Aaron in over five years. They hadn't met until they were teenagers, and although their early years together had been rocky, they'd worked everything out by the time they were both accepted to Stanford. For most of their time there they'd been roommates working towards degrees in Engineering. Things had fallen apart their senior year, when Aaron had walked in on Andrew making out with a guy. After that, Aaron had distanced himself from Andrew, culminating in him framing Andrew for cheating on one of his finals. Andrew had been expelled, only one credit short of getting his degree, and he hadn't heard from Aaron since.
So he was a little surprised to be getting a birthday message from him. He clicked on it, and it opened a new window with text in it.
A WILD ORC APPROACHES
The cursor blinked on the line below the text. Andrew watched it, remembering. It was a text based video game that he and Aaron had designed in the early years of college when things were still good between them. He debated whether or not to answer. It had taken him years and many sessions with his therapist before he could even talk about his past with Aaron without getting violently angry, and Aaron's actions still caused him pain.
His curiosity got the better of him and he hesitantly started typing.
I EQUIP MY IRON KNIFE
Andrew could remember what his character was carrying and Aaron would know, too; they shared an eidetic memory. It was an inside joke between them about how Andrew's characters were always armed to the teeth with knives.
The cursor blinked a couple times before new words appeared.
IDENTITY CONFIRMED BEGIN FILE TRANSFER
The file was huge, and as soon as it started transferring, images started popping up on Andrew's screen. He stood transfixed, unable to look away as thousands of images flashed before his eyes.
He didn't know how long he watched; the next thing he was aware of was the smell of smoke and Nicky shrieking over the sound of the smoke alarm.
Andrew was lying on the floor of his room and his head was pounding. He looked around; his computer tower had evidently been on fire. Nicky was beating at it with a heavy blanket while Erik sprayed it with a fire extinguisher. Nicky then opened one of Andrew's windows and waved the smoke away from the smoke detector until it ceased beeping. Andrew lay back and groaned, pressing a hand to his forehead. "What happened?" he muttered.
"I was going to ask you that," said Nicky. "We smelled smoke and then the detector started going off. We came in here to find a small fire and you passed out on the floor!"
"I don't remember," said Andrew, which was slightly worrying, given his memory. "I was using my computer… It must have overheated."
"Are you alright?" asked Erik.
"I think so," said Andrew. "I have a headache."
"You should go to a clinic," said Nicky fretfully. "You may have inhaled smoke."
"No," said Andrew.
"Let me check your throat, then," said Erik, who was a doctor. Andrew agreed and Erik gave him a quick check up. "I can't find anything wrong with you," he said, and then gave Andrew a list of symptoms for which he should seek treatment immediately.
The unexpected fire had delayed Andrew's routine enough that Renee arrived when he was still in the shower. She gave him a concerned look as he crossed the hall from the washroom to his bedroom. He quickly took his medication and turned to his closet. After getting dressed in his work uniform of a white short-sleeved dress shirt and black pants, he turned on the fan and pointed it towards the open window to help dissipate the smell of smoke and burning plastic. Erik had already taken the melted computer out to the dumpster.
Andrew emerged from his room, tying his tie and adjusting his armbands, to find Nicky still fretting over him.
"Are you sure you should go to work?" he asked. "You could call in sick."
"I'm sure it'll be fine, Andrew," said Renee. "I can explain to Wymack why you're away."
"I'm going to work," said Andrew with finality. Despite living with his cousin, he wasn't willing to accept something for nothing. He insisted on paying rent for his room, and he bought his own food. Now he'd need to replace his computer, and despite the fact that he'd get a discount from work, he couldn't lose money by taking time off.
"Okay," said Nicky. "Can you pick up a replacement fire extinguisher sometime today?"
"I'll go to the Large-Mart on my lunch break," Andrew promised as he followed Renee out the door.
His car was parked nearby. He couldn't afford a car of his own on his salary, but he did have the use of a car for work. Unfortunately, that meant he drove a white VW Beetle with the Nerd Herd logo emblazoned on the side. His university-aged self would have shuddered in disdain and refused to be seen near such a vehicle, but he had matured in the last five years and he wasn't about to turn up his nose at a virtually free car.
His head was still pounding and Renee was observant enough to leave him in peace as he mindlessly drove the familiar path to work, with the drone of the local news playing in the background. The newscaster mentioned road closures near the airport due to construction, and Andrew's mind flashed back to an image of a hummingbird. His mind flooded with information: the roads were closed because a NATO general was flying into town. Recent death threats against him meant that his itinerary was top secret.
"Andrew?" said Renee, hesitantly. "The light's green."
He shook himself, wondering why he was suddenly imagining stories about NATO generals, and resumed driving, making sure to focus on his surroundings.
When they arrived at work, they separated. Renee, in her khakis and green polo shirt, was a salesperson, while Andrew worked at the Nerd Herd IT helpdesk. His two coworkers, Allison and Matt, were already at their kiosk in the back corner of the store. Despite her uniform, Allison looked ready for a magazine cover shoot. Andrew noticed that she was wearing a very short skirt instead of pants today, which meant that she was likely in an off-again period of her on-again, off-again relationship with Seth, one of the store's salesmen.
Matt passed him the daily duty roster that Dan, the assistant manager, had created. Matt had a couple off-site repairs to do that morning, and Allison was assigned to their helpline, so Andrew was responsible for any walk-in customers. He took a seat at the front of the kiosk and prepared himself for another mind-numbing day of boredom and rude customers.
Andrew was staring blankly ahead, completely tuning out the ranting of a man who was angry that Andrew wasn't going to fix his computer for free, even though it was under warranty.
"Again, sir, the warranty doesn't cover you hitting your computer with a hammer," he said flatly, wishing that he didn't care about keeping his job. Ignoring this guy or threatening him with a knife both seemed like better options than being patient and polite.
"There were all these pop ups asking me for money!" argued the man. "The least you could do-"
"The least you could do is treat service workers with respect," said another customer from behind the irate man. The man stopped with a shocked expression and turned towards the newcomer. He was short, barely taller than Andrew's five feet, with curly reddish-brown hair and piercing blue eyes.
"I'd bet that the pop ups were your fault, too?" he continued, as if he didn't notice that the much-larger man was pulling himself up threateningly. "Porn sites, right? I don't imagine that someone like you could get any in real life-"
"How dare-" started the man, taking a step forward.
"-but that doesn't give you the right to harass people at their place of work. So do everyone here a favour, install anti-virus software, and show some respect for your possessions and for other people's time." The redhead stepped into the larger man's space, looking up at him with hard eyes. "Leave now," he said, unmistakable command in his voice. The other man slumped, evidently recognizing the danger that seemed to ooze from the tiny redhead, despite his size. It sent a thrill up Andrew's spine.
Once the irate customer had slunk off, the redhead stepped up to the counter with a sheepish expression.
"I don't need your protection," Andrew told him.
"As much as I would like to claim myself a knight in shining armour, that had a lot more to do with me than it did with you," said the man with a shrug. "I've had an awful couple days and acting like an asshole to people who deserve it always makes me feel better." He gave Andrew a sunny smile. "Anyway, it's nice to meet you, Andrew," he said, eyeing Andrew's name tag. "I'm Neil, and I'm having problems with my phone." He passed over an older-model grey flip phone.
"Well, I can see right away that your problem is that you're using a flip phone and it's not 2006," said Andrew.
"I find that the old flip phones are sturdier," said Neil, sounding amused. "I kept breaking my smartphones. But suddenly the battery cover on this one has started repeatedly falling off."
"What were you doing that you kept breaking smartphones?" asked Andrew, pulling out one of their tiny repair screwdrivers. He could see that the casing just had to be tightened.
"Well, it turns out that they don't like being dropped from great heights, or being run over by cars, or being dunked in large bodies of water. And they're not bulletproof in the slightest."
"Let me guess: you work for the mob," said Andrew.
"Maybe I'm running from my past associations with the mob," replied Neil. "Or maybe I'm just a giant klutz."
"No, I'm pretty sure I'm right. You're a tiny, tiny mob boss." Andrew tightened the screws and replaced the battery cover. "That should do it," he said, handing the phone back to Neil.
"Tiny? You hypocrite," said Neil. Andrew just flexed his bicep, showing off how not tiny he was and Neil laughed. "What do I owe you?"
"Small repairs like that are free," said Andrew.
"Alright," said Neil. He rapped his knuckles on the counter. "It was nice to meet you, Andrew. Maybe I'll see you around sometime." He gave Andrew a mock salute as he left.
"Were you flirting?" asked Allison incredulously from somewhere behind him. She was giving him a look as if he were a completely new species that she'd never encountered before. "It's hard to tell because you didn't change your expression, but I'm pretty sure that was flirting."
"No," said Andrew.
"I don't blame you," she continued, ignoring his response. "I would definitely tap that."
Andrew didn't answer, but silently agreed with her. He spent the rest of the morning resolutely not thinking about ice blue eyes or running his hands through auburn curls or having lithe thighs wrapped around his hips.
As promised, Andrew headed over to the nearby Large-Mart at lunch time to pick up a new fire extinguisher. His headache had subsided, but he was still feeling out of sorts, so he wasn't happy when he got a glimpse of a stranger's face in the hardware section that made his brain flash up an image like it had during the news report that morning. The man's face somehow made him think of a picture of chrysanthemums and his brain flooded with the information that the man examining tools in the Burbank Large-Mart was Vladislav Umarov, a demolitions expert with ties to Chechen separatists.
Andrew realized that he'd been standing in place too long, staring at the man. In all likelihood this man was not a terrorist, despite what Andrew's brain was insisting, but he still seemed dangerous enough that Andrew shouldn't incite his ire.
He found the fire extinguishers quickly and then hightailed it back to the BuyMore, confused as to what was happening to him. On his way into the store, he bumped into another man, who reached out and steadied him. Andrew instinctively shied away from his touch, having enough control over himself to refrain from attacking the man.
"Sorry," the man apologized. "Do you work here?"
Andrew looked up at the man - who was unfairly attractive, with dark hair and green eyes - and nodded.
"Well," said the man, brushing down his suit, "I'm here to apply for a position. Can you direct me to the store manager?"
Andrew escorted the man to Wymack's office, more or less ignoring the awkward small talk that he attempted to engage Andrew in.
"Thank you," said the man when they arrived. "I'm Kevin, by the way. Kevin Day." He reached out to shake Andrew's hand.
"Andrew Minyard," replied Andrew, eyeing Kevin's offered hand with distaste.
"Well, Andrew it was nice to meet you. Hopefully we'll be working together soon."
Andrew didn't reply and returned to the Nerd Herd kiosk.
"Huh," said Allison, having watched the newcomer's trip across the store. "Did you make a deal with the devil? What's with all the hot guys acting interested in you?"
"It's been a weird day," he replied, completely honestly.
He had no more strange brain hiccups that day and was feeling mostly back to normal by the following afternoon. He was perusing the store inventory, trying to find an appropriate replacement for his computer, when there was the sound of a throat clearing. He looked up to find Neil hovering at the kiosk counter.
"Are you still having problems with your phone?" he asked.
"Yes," said Neil. "I met a cute guy yesterday and my phone doesn't have his number in it."
"Oh," said Andrew, unaccountably disappointed.
Neil looked at him incredulously. "You know I'm talking about you, right?"
"Oh," Andrew repeated dumbly.
Neil rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "Look, I don't normally do this. And I know that hitting on people at their place of work is awful, because they can't tell you to fuck off without potential consequences, so I just want to assure you that if you say no I'll leave and never come back. But I'm new in town and I don't know anybody, and I knew that if I didn't come ask you out I would be kicking myself for squandering an opportunity."
"You want to go out with me?"
"Yeah," said Neil, looking surprised at Andrew's disbelief. "I thought there was something there. If you don't agree, that's fine, but you just seemed really… interesting."
"That took you a very long time to come up with a compliment."
Neil grinned. "Well, I was going to say that you seemed nice, but I don't like lying."
"You're new in town?" asked Andrew.
"Just got here earlier this week."
"There's a club I like that's not too far from here," he continued. "We could go, if you want."
"That sounds great," said Neil enthusiastically. "Tonight? Here, put your number in my phone."
They exchanged numbers and worked out the details of their date before Neil said he'd let Andrew get back to work and left, looking back once with a smile on his way out of the store.
Andrew turned to find both Allison and Matt gaping at him.
"High five!" said Matt, putting up one of his shovel-sized hands. Andrew ignored him. "Oh, well, I'll give myself a high five," he said, doing so. "You deserve it for pulling someone so hot."
"You are batting far above average with that one," agreed Allison. "Hey, Renee!" she called to where Renee was just in earshot. "Your boy snagged a hot date for this evening!"
Renee smiled in response, but didn't make a big fuss since she knew that Andrew wouldn't like it. There was going to be enough screeching and excitement when Andrew told Nicky about his upcoming date when he got home from work.
As expected, Nicky was beside himself with glee when Andrew told him about his plans for that evening. He insisted on helping Andrew pick what he was going to wear (which was obviously going to be black jeans and a tight black t-shirt that put Andrew's shoulders and biceps on display) and generally preened like a proud parent of an antisocial teenager who had just made a new friend.
They'd decided to get dinner before heading to Eden's Twilight, so Andrew met Neil at a little Mexican place that he liked. Their dinner conversation was engaging; Andrew was surprised to find himself not losing any interest in Neil who didn't seem to mind Andrew's frequent silences. He noticed that Neil was a little cagey about his past, but it wasn't like Andrew was being completely forthcoming and blurting out his close-kept secrets. All in all, Andrew found himself really enjoying Neil's company and wanting to see more of him.
They walked to the club; Neil, while being mindful of Andrew's space, kept subtly checking their surroundings with an eagle eye, making Andrew wonder if he was, in fact, running from someone. He was distracted by his thoughts by a motorcade passing nearby. The hummingbird picture was back, and his brain told him that this was General Waterhouse's motorcade, on his was to address NATO members about recent terrorism in Chechnya.
Neil noticed his distraction, but didn't ask and Andrew tried to shake off the feeling of dread. They arrived at the club and took a seat at the bar, continuing their dinner conversation. Neil seemed a little uneasy in the crowd, his eyes roaming restlessly, until suddenly his entire frame froze with tension. The next moment, he was sliding off his stool, reaching for Andrew but stopping short of touching him.
"Let's dance," he said.
"I don't dance," replied Andrew.
Neil nodded over his shoulder. "Then let's get lost in the crowd."
Andrew followed the motion of his head and spotted someone who didn't belong. He couldn't see the man's face, but he was wearing a suit which had a telltale bulge that indicated that he was armed. He carried himself stiffly, like a cop or someone with military training.
"Is he after you?" he asked Neil, getting off his stool and following as Neil weaved through the crowd.
"He's after you," replied Neil shortly, having to raise his voice to be heard over the music.
Andrew stopped. "Why?"
"Let's get out of here and I'll tell you," said Neil, headed to one of the back exits. They emerged in the back alley. Neil looked around to get his bearings and chose a direction.
"What's going on?" asked Andrew.
"We have to get out of here," said Neil. They reached the street that intersected the alley and Neil headed towards one of the parked cars. It was a jet black Maserati, the type of car that Andrew could never afford but that he desperately wanted. Neil slipped a couple picks out of his back pocket and started to break into the car. It probably said something about Andrew that he found Neil committing a crime to be incredibly attractive.
Neil popped the lock and opened the door. "Get in," he said. "I'll explain when we're safe."
Andrew hesitated, before deciding that he'd rather deal with Neil than with the cop from the club. Besides, he frequented the gym regularly and was skilled in self-defence (he took classes, which was where he'd met Renee) and he had at least thirty pounds of muscle on Neil. He climbed into the passenger seat as Neil hotwired the car. The engine turned over just as a giant, black SUV turned the corner.
"Fuck," hissed Neil, and slammed on the gas. A couple bullets pinged off the back bumper.
"So you weren't lying when you said that smartphones aren't bulletproof enough for you?" said Andrew, feeling strangely calm.
"Nope," said Neil tightly, yanking on the parking brake and taking a hard corner.
"Are you a criminal, then?"
Neil huffed a laugh. "Worse. I'm CIA."
"What does the CIA want with me?"
"A rogue agent sent you top secret files," said Neil. "We don't want them to fall into the wrong hands."
"What are you talking about?"
"Two nights ago, all our Intersect files were downloaded and sent to your computer."
"Intelligence agencies in this country need a way to pool their data without stepping on each other's toes," said Neil wryly, accelerating around another corner, his eyes on the reflection of their pursuers. "We have a centralized computer called the Intersect. All our intel is encoded into images that can't be interpreted easily and stored in the Intersect which is able to mine the data for patterns. Very few people know that it exists and it is very worrying that a civilian is in possession of our secrets."
"I did receive a file two nights ago. But it wasn't from the CIA. It was from my brother."
"Is it still on your computer?"
"My computer caught fire."
"The data is gone? You're sure it's not recoverable? You don't have an external drive, or backups in the cloud?"
"No," said Andrew, just as another black SUV came out of nowhere and clipped their car. They spun several times and the engine sputtered off.
Neil launched himself out of the car, gun in hand. "Stay behind me," he ordered.
The SUV pulled up and a man in a suit got out, pointing a gun at the two of them. Andrew did a double take when he realized that it was Kevin Day, the man that had applied to work at the BuyMore the day before.
"Goddammit, Day," shouted Neil. "You shot at me!"
"That's Major Day to you, you little spook," said Kevin. "What do I even call you? Alex? Stefan? Chris? Every time we run into each other you have a different name."
"It's Neil," he said through gritted teeth.
"Well, Neil," said Kevin, taking the safety off his gun. "Step away from my asset."
"He's not yours, Kevin," said Neil.
"He was sent NSA secrets, I have a right to him."
"He got just as many CIA secrets," argued Neil, "and his computer is busted, he doesn't have the files."
"Why were they sent to him in the first place? What was his brother doing?"
"Why don't you ask the agent who sent the files?" asked Andrew. "And what does Aaron have to do with anything?"
"Your brother Aaron was the rogue agent who sent you the files," said Kevin, relaxing slightly so that he was no longer pointing his gun at them. "But we can't ask him why, he's dead."
Everything inside Andrew stilled. He hadn't been close with his brother, but he hadn't wanted him dead. He hadn't been hopeful that the two of them would reconnect, but to have the possibility taken away left him feeling breathless.
"Real tactful, Kevin," grumbled Neil, before turning to Andrew. "Aaron was recruited to the CIA out of university," he said, holding out his hand placatingly but not moving to grab Andrew. "Two days ago he went rogue and broke into the facility that housed the Intersect. He sent the files to you and then destroyed the mainframe. He was killed in the explosion."
"I-" said Andrew, turning away. As he did so, he caught sight of a nearby hotel. His brain flashed him a picture of a river, and all the information he'd acquired during the last two days came together. "There's a bomb in that hotel," he said.
"What?" asked Kevin, raising his gun again. "Is that a threat?"
"Shut up, Kevin," ordered Neil. "Why do you say that?" he asked Andrew.
"I've had a strange couple days," said Andrew. "I keep getting flashes of information. I know about the NSA plans for General Waterhouse, that he's giving a talk in that hotel. And I saw a Chechen demolitions expert in the Large-Mart yesterday, the CIA has been watching the group he's affiliated with. He's here to kill the general."
"I thought you said he didn't have the files!" shouted Kevin.
"He can't!" countered Neil. "Even if he looked at the pictures, it takes a perfect, eidetic memory to be able to interpret them!"
"Funny story..." said Andrew.
Neil stared at him for a couple beats. "Fuck," he swore, and then both he and Kevin took out their phones, calling in bomb threats to their superiors and to the local police.
Andrew took a seat in the back of Kevin's SUV, feeling numb. He was trying to wrap his mind around the knowledge that Aaron was dead and that he'd send Andrew government secrets that were now trapped in his head. He didn't know how long he sat there as Neil and Kevin argued with each other and into their phones. Eventually Neil knocked on the side of the car to get his attention.
"The bomb was found and disarmed," he said.
Andrew just stared blankly.
"Come on," said Neil. "I'll take you home."
Andrew looked at his cousin's house, but couldn't bring himself to go inside just yet. Luckily it was late enough that Nicky would have given up waiting for him to get home from his date.
He took a seat on the edge of the fountain in the shared courtyard. "What now?" he asked Neil.
Neil took a seat beside him. "Now…" he trailed off. "You're the only way to access our joint intel," he said. "Luckily no one knows that or you would be in danger. Kevin and I will keep an eye on you and you'll have to help us out until we can replace the Intersect."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Kevin and his boss were lobbying for you to be taken into custody and never let out to see the light of day again," said Neil. "This way is better."
"So you're just going to follow me around?"
"No," said Neil. "We'll have to integrate ourselves into your life; your family and friends can't know about this or else they'll be in danger."
"What's going to happen?"
"Kevin's going to set up in one of these houses," said Neil. He pointed at the townhouse two away from Nicky's that had a FOR SALE sign attached to it. "The NSA's going to purchase that one. And he's already applied at the BuyMore, so he'll be working there."
Neil grimaced. "My boss, Agent Browning, said something about a base of operations near the BuyMore. Some kind of German restaurant?"
"There's a wiener place in the strip mall across the parking lot."
"I'm pretty sure he just wants to make fun of me for wearing lederhosen," grumbled Neil.
Andrew's mind short circuited as he considered whether or not Neil in lederhosen was attractive. Probably yes, but only because Neil seemed like he would be attractive no matter what he was wearing.
"My cover will be as your boyfriend," finished Neil.
"Are you even gay?" asked Andrew. "Or are you just pretending?"
"I'm not really anything," Neil shrugged. "My lifestyle is not really conducive to getting close to people, and I've never met anyone worth the risk."
"How'd you know about me?"
"Well, you did pretty blatantly check me out," said Neil. "But I had insider information. More than once Aaron said that pretty mouthy assholes like me were exactly your type."
"Aaron called you pretty?"
"I may have inferred that part," said Neil smiling.
"...You know Aaron?"
Neil's smile disappeared. "We were partners for four years."
"You dated my brother?" asked Andrew, feeling queasy.
"What? No! Ew," said Neil, looking a little incredulous. "We were CIA partners."
"Why does anyone trust you, then? Shouldn't you have known what he was planning?"
"We were sent on separate assignments about six months ago. I hadn't heard anything from him until Browning told me about the explosion. I volunteered to come investigate because I knew I was the only one who had any background information about you." His gaze hardened. "I'm going to find out what happened to him, why he went rogue. I promise you."
"What's that worth? A promise from a liar?" asked Andrew. "It's like Day said: your identity changes so often, you're impossible to know. 'Neil' isn't a real person."
"No," agreed Neil. "But underneath all my personas I have a core that I can't change. Don't trust 'Neil', trust me."
"How can I? I don't even know you."
"You will," said Neil. He leaned towards Andrew as if he was going to knock their shoulders together but he again stopped short of actually touching Andrew, seemingly having a sixth sense for his boundaries. "You should get some sleep. You had a long day."
Andrew watched as Neil left the courtyard and frowned. Neil was extremely dangerous. Not because he was a highly skilled CIA agent and likely killer, but because Andrew found him interesting.
He shook his head and stood, heading inside while reminding himself not to fall for the hot CIA agent who lied as easily as breathing and who was currently pretending to be his boyfriend in order to protect the secrets in his head. He should have known then that it was futile.